And now dad LESTER ROSS has been arrested on child support and witness intimidation charges related to this case. Hmmm. His story about returning the child to her mother in a Wal-Mart parking lot is not backed up by video evidence. What a surprise....
Police Chief: Skeletal remains found in shallow grave belong to an adult, child
By Rick Elmhorst and Laurie Davison, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Authorities acting on 'tip' in search for mom, child
WINTER HAVEN --
The search for a missing mother and daughter led to the discovery of a shallow grave with skeletal remains in a Winter Haven orange grove and an arrest of the girl's father Wednesday afternoon.
Winter Haven Police, the Polk Sheriff's Office and the FDLE were acting on a 'credible tip'.
Authorities used ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs after receiving a tip that Ronkeya Holmes, 29, and her 3-year-old daughter Masarah Ross may be buried in the orange grove near Dundee Road and Sage Road.
The remains belong to an adult and child. While it hasn't been confirmed, Winter Haven Police Chief Gary Hester suspects the remains belong to the missing mother and child.
"There's two sets of skeletal remains in the same shallow grave." he said, "It's pretty apparent this is our little girl and her mama."
Hester said he's now working a murder investigation.
"It's obvious folks just don't end up in a grove by natural means," he said. "It's a bittersweet day. We wish we would've found these folks alive."
Again, the remains found are that of an adult and a child, but have still not been positively identified as Holmes and Ross. Forensics experts are now trying to determine the gender, race, and age of the remains found.
Holmes and Ross have been missing since last December. Winter Haven Police said before they disappeared, Holmes was desperately trying to get her daughter back from the child's father, Lester Ross, and was also questioning where their daughter was.
Father arrested twice
Lester Ross was arrested last Friday on child support charges, but police say that arrest had nothing to do with the search for Holmes and Masarah Ross. He bonded out of jail late Wednesday morning.
Officers later re-arrested him Wednesday for tampering with a witness, a first-degree felony. Police say the latest charge is related to the case.
Winter Haven Police are not calling Ross a suspect in the disappearance of Holmes or his daughter, but they do say he has been a "significant part" of their investigation.
Ross left the Winter Haven Police Department Wednesday night, saying he did not murder his 3-year-old daughter or her mother.
Police chief Hester said they had a reason to re-arrest Ross.
"It's based on him attempting to intimidate a witness in this case," he said.
In October, police searched for the bodies of the mother and daughter at Ross' former home. That dig turned up no evidence. Ross told police he last saw Holmes and Masarah Ross at a local Walmart, but surveillance tapes according to police revealed the two were never there.
Family looking for closure
Ronkeya Holmes' family showed up to the scene and talked about hoping for closure.
"Some nights, can't sleep," said her stepfather, Archie Forte. "You wonder why it happened."
Family friend Diamond Burnham was also hoping for closure.
"The family will not be happy but the mom will be able to sleep knowing that her child has been found," she said.
Leon Forte is the brother of Holmes's stepfather, Archie. Forte believes Ross has to know something.
"I want them to get to the bottom of it, find out something, what happened, because she was a good girl," he said.